exchange of letters leiblers & solana spokesperson

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    AN EXCHANGE OF LETTERS
    WITH JAVIER SOLANA'S SPOKESPERSON
    Isi Leibler
    July 29, 2003

    (The following exchange of correspondence, forwarded to CIJR by World Jewish Congress Senior Vice President Isi Leibler,concerns the anti-Israel stance of the European Union.)

    I received an extraordinary letter from Cristina Gallach, spokesperson for Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative. Ms. Gallach's letter was in response to an article I had written (Jerusalem Post: "Wake Up Europe", 6 July 2003) criticising Miguel Angel Moratinos, EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process for his farewell message which highlighted the double standards embodied in European policy towards Israel.

    Ms. Gallach signed her response to me with her formal title as Spokesperson for Javier Solana, but said it was not for publication--despite copying in a third party. I feel the nature of her unsolicited communication and the importance of the issues covered do not prohibit me from releasing the exchange.

    From: Gallach Cristina
    Sent: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003
    To: Isi Leibler

    Dear Sir,

    It is not my usual habit to reply to newspaper articles, even if, as is sometimes the case, they misrepresent personal views. However, I feel obliged to set the record straight as far as your recent article "Wake up, Europe" in the Jerusalem Post is concerned. Leaving aside the many unjustified comments made about Miguel Angel Moratinos, let me respond to two accusations made specifically against Javier Solana.

    Firstly, it is stated that the EU High Representative has had "chat sessions" with Sheikh Yassin of Hamas. Your source for this assertion can only be in your own imagination, since the fact is that he has never met or sought to meet Sheikh Yassin. I find it highly regrettable that this erroneous assertion can be presented as casual fact when even a cursory check with my office would have clarified matters.

    Secondly, it is stated that Javier Solana personally endorsed the use of cluster bombs on densely populated residential suburbs of Belgrade. Let me tell you Mr. Solana is proud to have led NATO as its Secretary General for almost five years. He is proud of an organisation that, under the leadership of the United States, has defended democracy and liberty for more than fifty years. And he is proud that, during his turn at the helm, this organisation acted decisively to put a halt to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. During the NATO campaign cluster bombs were never deliberately used against civilians, and every precaution was taken to avoid civilian casualties. When civilian deaths occurred from their use, this was a matter of profound regret, as the Alliance made clear at the time.

    On the more general issue of anti-Semitism, let me repeat what Javier Solana has said repeatedly in public: we must never be complacent. Racism and anti-Semitism are evils to be banished from our societies, and must be fought with vigour and determination, as they are by all European governments. Recent acts of anti-Semitic nature in Europe are the outrageous _expression of marginal groups and simply cannot be tolerated. This is the firm view of all in the European political mainstream. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism, but neither can we tolerate the insinuation that our policy is driven by anti-Semitism.

    Your accusation of Europe being biased and having double standards is, ironically, one that we have often heard from Arab friends. Some of them often ask me why Javier Solana is so prompt and systematic in condemning terror attacks against Israelis, but have failed to react to many instances of the killing of Palestinian civilians, including children. Some have even compiled statistics. The truth is that we are neither anti-Israeli nor anti-Palestinian. We are pro-peace, pro-security, pro-justice.

    As for terrorism, we too have "confronted it in the face". People have been blown to pieces in the streets of Paris, London and Madrid. We need no lessons in this field: we have already learned them. When Mr. Solana was a member of the Spanish government, barely a week went by when he did not have to attend the funeral of victims of terrorism, some of them close to him.

    Contrary to your assertion, Israel does not "dwelleth alone". And Europeans have done everything in the last years to ensure that it doesn't. The EU has signed key agreements with Israel, not least an Association Agreement, the closest type of contractual relationship the EU can have with a third country. As recently as last month, the EU signed a renewed scientific and technical co-operation agreement with Israel, the only non-European country to be fully associated with the EU's research programme, allowing European and Israeli scientists mutually to enhance their excellence. Trade with the EU represents 40% of Israel's imports and 30% of its exports. Israel is part of the Western European and others Group in the UN in New York. We have worked relentlessly for the recognition of Israel by its neighbours and by the Arab countries as a whole.

    The entire Barcelona process is based on our vision--that we will continue to pursue--of a Mediterranean region reconciled and thriving in economic, cultural and human exchanges. Our vision is one in which hatreds--however understandable they may be--are not allowed to carry the day. This is something he has often discussed in the framework of the regular and fruitful dialogue he has with the American Jewish Congress, an organisation with which your own organisation no doubt has relations.

    Yours sincerely,
    Cristina Gallach
    Spokesperson for Javier Solana, EU High Representative

    P.S.: I am also sending copy to this letter to Mr. Bret Stephens, a good friend of mine, with whom I worked on several occasions since he was The Wall Street Journal's deputy opinion editor in Brussels.


    Reply from Mr. Leibler, 28th July 2003

    Dear Ms. Gallach,

    I do not feel morally bound to conform to your specification that your unsolicited letter not be published. I state this since your email is written officially and signed with your formal title. Secondly in light of the fact that you have already copied at least one third party, the editor of the Jerusalem Post. I believe that our exchange of correspondence is important and confirms my allegations regarding the double standards practiced by Mr. Solana and his associates.

    You accuse me of flights of imagination when I allege that Mr. Solana met with Sheikh Yassin, the Hamas leader. I recollect a number of media references to such meetings. For example, I quote an article which appeared on 29/07/02 in Ha’aretz by Daniel Sobelman and Aluf Benn--both reputable journalists associated with a newspaper that cannot be accused of right-wing bias: "European Union foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana met last week with Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, as part of the ongoing international efforts--including Jordanian, Egyptian and Saudi Arabian mediation--to win a Hamas agreement for a cease-fire that would accompany a Tanzim declaration of an end to the attacks on Israeli civilians."

    If the facts in this article are untrue I certainly cannot recollect ever seeing a repudiation. But the meetings with Hamas are a minor aspect to the central issue of the bias and double standards being applied against Israel.

    Your spirited defense of Javier Solana and his approval of bombing raids against civilians in Belgrade is commendable. My question to you is: Did NATO, under his authorization, try to "eliminate" Slobodan Milosevic by bombing his home which was located in a residential centre? Did Javier Solana authorize bombings which included residential areas and led to loss of innocent life? The answer to both questions would have to be affirmative. You tell me Solana acted "decisively to put a halt to ethnic cleansing" and "never deliberately used cluster bombs against civilians." Bravo! And "when civilian deaths occurred this was a matter of profound regret." Again Bravo! But why dwell on these issues? I never criticized NATO for opposing ethnic cleansing or killing innocent civilians in error.

    The reality is that your remarks embody the double standards that I condemn. You say Javier Solana was distressed when he killed innocent civilians. Are you suggesting that we Israelis are not distressed when Palestinian civilians are killed in the course of efforts to defend our children from being blown to pieces by suicide bombers? The fact is that unlike the NATO troops, to whom you refer with respect, many of our young men now lie in graves because our army did not use cluster bombs or the superior fire power at our disposal, out of a concern to minimize civilian deaths. Yet Mr. Solana and his colleagues have the gall to condemn us for defending ourselves. And you don't see the double standards?

    You state that Palestinians claim you are biased against them. Really? Did you pay heed to Mr. Milosevic and his gang when they complained that you were biased? You utter trendy buzz words about "neither being anti Israeli nor anti Palestinian" but "pro-peace, pro-security, pro-justice." You don't appreciate that you are exemplifying the moral relativism which dominates your policies. In terms of the Middle East you behave as though there is a moral equivalency to all aspects of the conflict. When Palestinian suicide bombers target innocent Israeli civilians and when Israeli soldiers try to kill those who indulge or initiate the killings--it's all the same. It is staggering that when you express such sanctimonious clichés you remain insensitive, even oblivious to such hypocritical inconsistencies.

    And then you have the nerve to tell Israelis "As for terrorism, we too have confronted it in the face." Really! I wonder whether you would dare make such an insensitive remark had you lived in Jerusalem or another Israeli town prior to the current lull and experienced the horror of being in a country whose women and children are all deliberately targeted by crazed suicide bombers brainwashed into believing that by murdering innocent civilians they are guaranteeing themselves a portion in Paradise. How many funerals of children deliberately targeted did you or Mr. Solana attend? For us it was almost a daily event. Were you ever scared enough to avoid visiting public areas, restaurants, theatres and shopping malls? Do schools and kindergartens in major European cities require armed guards to protect the children from ghouls who would blow them to pieces? Shame on you for comparing the relatively tranquility of Europe to what we have been enduring every day these past three years!

    I never accused your superior and his associates of deliberate anti-Semitism. But when such double standards are routinely employed against us, there is little doubt that anti-Semitism must be considered as a possible motivating factor--especially having regard to the European behavior towards Jews only half a century ago. Admittedly being a Spaniard, Mr. Solana is more detached from this question because Spain's Jewish problem was resolved by his ancestors over 500 years ago. I also note that in relation to the recent remarks by a number of U.S. Congressmen relating to the revival of anti-Semitism in Europe you personally made a statement dismissing their observations as "overblown." Are you aware of the number of synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish institutions desecrated over the past few years? The highest number since the downfall of Nazism? Do we need to have a Kristallnacht before people like you are willing to face up to the revival of Europe's oldest scourge?

    You state that your vision is one in which hatreds do not carry the day. Yet as a former (now disillusioned) supporter of Oslo, I can assure you that there are no people more desperate for peace than the people of Israel. They entered into a peace process with a partner who demonstrated that he remained a duplicitous murderer who, at no stage, ever had any intention of conceding the right of sovereignty to the Jewish people in this region. As Hitler transformed the Germans into an evil nation, Arafat transformed Palestinians into a society suffused with evil in which suicide bombers are considered holy martyrs and kindergarten children are taught from infancy to kill Jews. Are you aware that Palestinians polls indicate that 80 percent of the people endorse suicide bombings? Yet you repeat the mindless moral equivalency which suggests that we and the Palestinians are simply two people hating one another, captured in a "cycle of violence." To resolve that, Javier Solana and his colleagues will be the saintly mediators who remain even handed and make no distinction between victims and killers and between those who seek peace and those who seek to annihilate their neighbors. And you persist in recognizing Arafat as the "elected" leader of the Palestinian people, although I doubt whether you would suggest that we should have applied the same approach in relation to Hitler or Milosevic--also "elected" leaders.

    I hope that in the near future the more responsible leaders in Europe will appreciate why so many of us are outraged by the double standards they apply in relation to us. Mr. Solana's activism in Yugoslavia and his inability to recognize the inconsistencies in his subsequent condemnation of acts of self-defense on our part exemplify this.

    Yours sincerely,

    Isi Leibler
 
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